2023 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Honoree: Honorable Romonda D. Belcher
Honorable Romonda D. Belcher – Des Moines, Iowa (originally Plymouth, North Carolina)
Romonda D. Belcher, the daughter of Viola G. Belcher and the late Willie S. Belcher, Jr., graduated from the former Plymouth High School in Plymouth, North Carolina. From a young age, she always only wanted to be a judge so she could ensure people were treated fairly. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree, cum laude, from Howard University in 1990, with a minor in Broadcast Journalism. She credits Howard for allowing her to gain self-confidence and built upon the most valuable lessons learned from her mother, the importance of: her faith, the pursuit of higher education and treating people the way she wanted to be treated. After graduating, she made a difference as a training coordinator with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority helping bus operators, who lacked basic remedial skills, rise through the ranks.
With her big dream of becoming a judge and unaware of the area of law she wanted to practice, she came to Des Moines in 1992 to attend Drake University Law School on a partial scholarship. While at Drake, she was thankful for the opportunities that exposed her to many legal career paths. She interned with Parrish & Kruidenier; Drake Legal Clinic; Polk County Attorney’s Office; and the Iowa Department of Transportation and clerked for then Iowa Supreme Court Justice Louis Lavorato.
Judge Belcher earned her Juris Doctor Degree from Drake Law School in May 1995, passed the Iowa State Bar and was licensed to practice law in June 1995, and began working as an Assistant Polk County Attorney in September 1995. Dedicated to servant leadership, she spent the next 15 years prosecuting juvenile and criminal matters and representing county officials and department heads in civil matters. Along the way, she applied several times to become a judge and was told she was too young, or that she did not have enough experience, but she was not deterred. She remains most appreciative of the County Attorney’s Office for allowing her to matriculate throughout the office to garner both jury trial and civil experience.
Though deferred, her dream was not to be denied. On August 20, 2010, her dream not only became a reality, but it also changed the trajectory of Iowa’s legal history. Appointed as a District Associate Judge in the Fifth Judicial District, Judge Belcher became the first, and remains the only, African American female appointed as a judge in the State of Iowa. She has presided with distinction over criminal cases, civil appeals and currently, over juvenile dependency and delinquency matters and Polk County’s Family Treatment Court.
Continuing in her spirit of service, Judge Belcher is an Adjunct Professor at Drake Law School, shaping future generations of legal practitioners. In addition, she served as Project Coordinator for the Iowa National Bar Association’s “A Monumental Journey” public art project dedicated to the founders of the National Bar Association. She demonstrates leadership and makes a difference in the community through her service on committees to address racial disparities in the juvenile and criminal justice systems; conducts training on being trauma informed to help the judiciary and other disciplines reduce revictimization of those experiencing trauma; and serves selflessly as a mentor to law students and youth.
Judge Belcher has been published twice in the Journal of the University of Iowa College of Law. In March 2022, she was selected by LexisNexis to author an Iowa Criminal Law Practice and Procedures Treatise (December 2023) that will continue to leave a lasting legacy. She is renowned for bringing historic civil rights figures to life in dramatic one-woman vignettes of Gertrude Rush, Edna Griffin, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, Mrs. Willie Glanton and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream, just to name a few.
Most Notable Honors and Awards:
- Community Hero, Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, May 2022
- Unsung Hero, Mount Mary University and the Empowering Youths of Iowa, Inc.,
- 2020 Women of Influence, Des Moines Business Record, August 2020
- Words of Wisdom and Dedicated Service Award, Drake Law School, April 2022;
September 2017 & 2019
- Women Breaking Barriers, Young Women’s Resource Center, November 2018
- Portrait commissioned and placed in the Sutton Gallery of Drake Law School
continuing to make history as the first African American to join other
distinguished alumni, March 2015
- “One of 14 People to Watch in 2014,” The Des Moines Register
- History Makers Award, African American Museum of Iowa and Gubernatorial
Proclamation, September 2011
- Delivered Drake Law School Commencement Address, May 2011, described by
Dean Jerry Anderson as one of the “most compelling, memorable addresses we
have ever had”
- Inaugural Willie Stevenson Glanton Award, Polk County Women Attorneys
Organization, March 2011
- “Citizen of the Year,” Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, November 2010
- Gertrude Rush Award, Iowa Organization of Women Attorneys and the Iowa
National Bar Association, June 2008
Judge Belcher’s trailblazing accomplishments have been recognized on the floor of the 116th United States Congress.